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March 5, 1995

A Matter Of Life And Death

Jeff Goldblum deals with the consequences of a near-death experience in Hideaway

Toronto Sun

 HOLLYWOOD -- Congratulations are in order today for Jeff Goldblum, but not for his new movie.
 Hideaway, which opened this weekend to tough reviews, is a science-fiction slasher film directed by controversial filmmaker Brett Leonard, who transformed virtual reality into a pop culture fad in his version of The Lawnmower Man.
 Goldblum, at least publicly, says he admires the ultra-violent Hideaway, in which he plays a family man who has a near-death experience, gets his brain wires short-circuited by a serial killer and spends the rest of the movie suffering horrifying visions of women having their throats cut. Finally, he must track the psycho killer down before he and/or his virginal daughter and distraught wife get slashed and slaughtered.
 "It is psychologically unsettling," Goldblum concedes, rather understating the case. "But I think we've made something more sophisticated than just a slasher movie, because of the family drama in it.
 "The Fly (his horror masterpiece with Toronto's David Cronenberg) could have been something else (meaning a cheap monster movie). But I think we raised that to something smarter. It's a love story and something that has poetry in it and majesty and real tragedy.
 "So I had hopes for this. I'm not displeased with it. I like it. I think we've brought some quality to it."
 But Goldblum is considerably more enthusiastic talking about real life. Which is where the congratulations come in. On Christmas Day, Goldblum asked his lover, actress Laura Dern, to marry him. She said yes.
 It will be the 42-year-old Goldblum's third marriage, all to actresses. In the early '80s he was married to Patricia Gaul; in the late '80s he was with Geena Davis. He had bought a ring for Dern, whom he met on the set filming Jurassic Park, weeks before Christmas, Dern's favorite day of the year. The ritual of opening presents ate up the morning - his original plan was to pop the question early - and the afternoon was spent at the home of her mother, Diane Ladd.
 Goldblum and Dern returned to their Hollywood home at dusk, where he gave her another present, a sexy dress. "Then we were in the bedroom," Goldblum recalls with a coy grin, "and found ourselves in the bed. I had stashed the ring in the side table and gave it to her. She said: `What's that?' And I said: `Will you marry me?' She was very sweet." He grins again.
 The couple has not set a date yet, Goldblum continues. "We're just slowly talking about how we would really want to do it most ideally and where we would want to go on our honeymoon."
 Meanwhile, his career, which now stretches over a 21-year span, is healthy, although the six-foot-four eccentric knows he will never be a bona fide superstar. Once Hideaway plays out, Goldblum will be seen in the Chris Columbus comedy Nine Months, co-starring with Robin Williams (in a cameo support role), English heartthrob Hugh Grant, professional sidekick Tom Arnold and rising American actress Julianne Moore (whose Roommates, with Peter Falk and D.B. Sweeney, opened this weekend to compete with Hideaway).
 "Oooooh," Goldblum coos about Nine Months. "I think that's going to be funny. I'm a painter, just like at home (Goldblum paints abstracts). I'm an artist (in Nine Months), a wild passionate artist struggling with commitment and relationships and possible fatherhood and the fears and joy it might hold."
 Next up is a co-starring role with Mary Steenburgen in a movie called Powder. None of the roles are as tough in spirit as the one in Hideaway, especially because of the graphic violence against women in the picture.
 Goldblum, whose mind whirls like a top in conversations while his head waves like a pendulum and his hands punctuate his sentences in the air, tries to respond to questions about that violence.
 "I think it's a horrible, horrible thing," he says about violence against women, not seeming to understand that the question is about the depiction of that violence. "There's no kidding about that. I hate women or anybody being beaten. I know it's obvious to say it, but it seems in some circles there is confusion about that, that it may be cool or okay or acceptable. I don't think it is. I think it's disgusting, obscene and horrible. And slitting women's throats is very, very bad."
 I suggest to him that there is a fine line in movies between the depiction of violence against women as a brutal act and as an entertainment for psychologically damaged men. "Hopefully," Goldblum says, "we don't pander or titillate or entertain with the violence of it, but show it to be the horrible, obscene thing that it is."
 For a good swath of the movie, Goldblum's character looks like he is going nuts and is verbally abusive towards his wife (played by Christine Lahti) and his daughter (Alicia Silverstone). Some actors, when playing disturbed characters, consume the negative feelings and carry them over into their private lives.
 Goldblum, an incurable romantic, did not, taking pains not to dump the negativity on Dern or anyone else. "I don't mistreat people in accordance to some character. In acting, anything goes. You suspend or you eliminate the bounds of legality and morality and civility and sociability and politeness and you can be passionate and you can unmask yourself and be all of yourself.
 "But I no longer grieve for the fact that real life demands something different. I think it's appropriate. There are restraints for good reasons in real life."
 And there are moments of romance, like on Christmas Day. Congratulations.
 "Isn't she cool?" Goldblum says rhetorically of Dern. "I think so too!"

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